Monday, April 30, 2012


Look it up, it's not a word! I found out because I looked it up when my wife texted me the following: "CaniculaterAbaa."

I initially thought that she was using auto-completion and that the cell phone changed what she was texting to something else. Then I figured out that she was saying (without spaces) "Can I see/call [not sure which] you later?" asking me either where to find me or for me to wait to call her. I was trying to call her while she was in a meeting.

I'm still trying to figure out what she meant by "Abaa" (or what the cell phone changed her texting to). Mby it ws jst hr bsntmnddly pnchng xtr bttns.

Ah, the joys of texting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Movie Review: A Better Life - Part 2

This is the second part of a two-part review of A Better Life. The first part dealt more with the background issue of illegal immigration, whereas this part focuses more on the movie itself.

In the movie, neither the illegal (representative of all illegals, but particularly those with upright motives) nor the police (representative of the legal system, including courts, prisons, and immigration) is entirely at fault. Both are stuck in an imperfect, human system.

The viewer is led to sympathize with the illegal man, an honest landscaper who wants nothing but to work hard so that his one son can have a better life. He's away from home; his wife left him when his son was little; he has next to nothing; when he does acquire something (a lawn business and pickup with equipment) it gets stolen from him. And yet, the movie does not excuse what he does wrong nor does it try to show him as a man victimized and ruined by the consequences of his actions.

Apart from the social issue of the film and the plight of many illegals in the U.S., the movie also has simply great acting. The father-son dynamic is beautiful, a word one might usually use of a mother-daughter relationship in a film.

In addition to the acting, the setting and language are extremely fitting. It is set in urban Los Angeles, and the mix of Spanish and English (including street language in both) is pitch perfect. It is an English-language film, but it naturally switches to Spanish with English subtitles on occasion, yet this is never awkward or unnatural. The highest praise that can be given to all of these elements--language, setting, acting--is that they contribute to the storyline and never distract. I only thought about them when I tried to so that I could analyze the film.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Movie Review: A Better Life - Part 1

This is the first part of a two-part review. This first part of the movie review focuses on the background issue. The second part focuses on the movie itself.
A Better Life is probably one of the better movies of 2011. It has excellent acting for an excellent story, covering the range of human emotion and experience without an unrealistically tragic or idealistic resolution. But above all, it handles a charged political issue (illegal immigration in the United States) from a decidedly apolitical perspective.

I am keenly interested in the illegal immigration issue because my wife is both Mexican and legal (and has always been legal and is now a citizen). Because of her nationality, and because we both speak Spanish, we have many Hispanic friends, a majority of whom are probably illegal. My issue with the illegal immigration issue, however, is that people on either side tend to be blind to valid arguments of the other.

On the one hand, many people tend to want to absolve illegals of all responsibility for having broken the law. These people tend to treat illegals as mere victims--victims of an uncaring American society and of a broken immigration system. I have even seen Hispanic periodicals that go so far as to try to compare the plight of illegal immigrants to the Holocaust. A massive fail, especially this week.

On the other hand, many other people tend to regard illegal immigrants as feckless criminals. These people may really look down on illegals, perhaps even with a trace of racism, and see no solution but to deport them or at least crack down on them as rigorously as possible under current immigration laws.

In reality, and to speak in generalities of a "typical" illegal: any illegal has broken the law. But it may have been an unwitting offense. But continuing to reside illegally is not an unwitting offense. But the illegal is not homicidal or criminal in any way. But the illegal does create a certain burden for society. But the illegal usually also contributes to society. But the illegal does not have any recognized rights. But the illegal is a human and should be treated humanely. But . . . what do we do?

The two key moral issues are rule of law and gravity of offense. In regard to the rule of law, any country needs to do its best to enforce laws (not look the other way when confronted with offenses). And any country should also revise its unjust, inefficient, or outdated laws.

In regard to the gravity of the offense, there is a qualitative difference between an offense that per se violates both human law and divine law (e.g., murder) and an offense that violates only human law (e.g., illegal immigration). The latter is still immoral because ultimately it violates God's moral law to obey human authorities. But the act per se is not evil.

This movie shows all of these tensions. No one is entirely right or wrong. Such is the result of imperfect human systems of government. And yet the movie never makes itself just about the plight of the illegals or the justice of the U.S. government. And for that, it is a success.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Pragmatics and a Pragmatic Apology

Ozzie Guillén is a famous and successful baseball manager, currently helming the Miami Marlins baseball team--and he is a person who should probably just plan to be quiet when in public. His most recent loosening of the tongue got him in trouble because 1) he said that he loved and respected Fidel Castro (who should certainly be loved, though not in the way Guillén meant, but should certainly not be respected) and 2) he said this as the manager of the Miami Marlins, who have a huge new stadium in the middle of Little Havana in Miami, where thousands of people who have all but had their lives ruined by the evil of Castro live and work.

So Guillén apologized. He was right to, if it was sincere. I can't judge whether it was, but I can find fault with at least one thing he said in his apology, that makes me wonder slightly if it was a purely pragmatic apology. As quoted in the Los Angeles Times article, the manager said, "I was thinking in Spanish and I said it wrong in English."

Huh? Which word is he talking about? His "love" or his "respect" for Castro? Or something else? There's no way that could have come out wrong in English (nor am I anything less than highly skeptical that he was thinking in Spanish when he said it in English). Even someone with English skills way below Guillén's could not be excused for failing to say the right word in English in that case. Those are not highly technical words.

The sad thing is, a lot of people will buy his argument of linguistic confusion without thinking about it. But it's bogus. Fortunately, the rest of his argument fully owns up to his guilt and the impropriety of what he said.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

News Flash: Bilingualism Can Improve Brain Function

Please note that I did not make a false claim or sensationalize the truth with my headline. The same could not be said for a recent opinion piece in the New York Times: "Why Bilinguals Are Smarter."

Nevertheless, the piece is a helpful overview of the well-established, and fairly well-known, benefits of bilingualism.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


最近The Toyota Wayを読んでいて、大成功のトヨタ自動車株式会社の重要な。「改善」という考え方は何よりも中心な原理です。改善というのは、